Monthly Archives: February 2014

Kindness, Being Enamored and Milk Break…

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milk break

When I was in the first grade and lived in a perfect little suburb of Livonia, my parents sat us all down and told us we were going to visit a farm in the country because we might be moving there.  As I recall, my older teenaged brothers were not terribly thrilled about this announcement, but I was beside myself with excitement.  My dad told me that we would have animals and a garden and all of the awesome trappings of living off the land!  I couldn’t wait to get started! All seven of us piled into the car for the hour long drive to the village called Byron.  The people who were selling the house were just finishing up a HUGE breakfast that Sunday morning and the whole farmhouse smelled of maple syrup.  There was a barn and a big old shed and the yard was gigantuous!  My dad talked about the property having 20 acres.  This 6-year old city girl had heard of blocks, cul-de-sacs and corner lots, but never an acre.  He explained that one acre was about the size of our yard at home and the three or four yards touching our property, combined.  It all felt like such an adventure!

We went out to visit one more time after my parents bought the property and before we moved in.  We met the neighbors who lived about a quarter mile from us and they had a little girl named Kim, just a year younger than me.  She had her very own pony!  The family also had barn cats, a dog or two, chickens and a few head of cattle and I couldn’t wait to live just like them – especially the “my own pony” part!  I had a bunch of fun that summer with Kim.  Her mom made homemade bread and jam, and let us collect the eggs from the chicken coop.  We layed on the grass and found pictures in the clouds.  I liked the country life just fine!  I was very nervous about attending a new school in the fall, but I had a friend, so at six, I just lived in the moment.  Unfortunately, she lived on the other side of the county line, so she attended school miles away from me, and as September neared, I became increasingly sad about that.

That first week of school another girl from the Detroit area showed up in my classroom.  We were fast friends.  I just loved her and her family was so cool.  Her dad had tattoos and he was so friendly, her mom reminded me of Cher and her brothers were older and kinda cute!  We spent almost every weekend at each other’s homes.  When we got a bit older our parents would allow us to walk to meet each other halfway, so we would call each other to leave at the same time and each walk the 1/2 mile to see each other.  I would always be a little jittery until I got over that first hill on the road.  Once I got to the top of that hill, I would usually see my best friend and it was all worth the fear of walking that road alone for the first stretch.

One of my favorite parts of going to Byron Elementary School was morning milk break.  My mom would give us a quarter for milk break milk for the whole week.  We got to drink our little pint of milk, laugh with our friends and just be kids every morning for about 20 minutes.  It was glorious!  We did not do that in the city school I came from and one of the things I loved about this was that we got to do it all through elementary school.  When we got into the upper grades, we were allowed to play music that we brought in during the break.  It was the bomb!  I often wonder if they still do that at Byron Elementary…

I don’t remember how or why but for some reason an older girl, named Shelley, used to come into my classroom during milk break and kind of watch over us.  She was a cheerleader, as I remember, and she always had the sweetest smile on her face.  She had freckles like me, but she was SO much prettier than I ever hoped to be.   As I’ve mentioned before, I was not an especially likeable little girl.  I was also gangly, with red hair, freckles and a bit brash…  So, when Shelley was kind to me, I was just shocked!  I wanted to be just like her in every way. Probably every child in my class thought s/he was Shelley’s favorite.   I remember knowing that she genuinely cared about me.  She listened to me and really talked to me.  I don’t remember her ever saying anything bad about anyone or anything.  I was completely enamored with her.  I even told my older brothers that I wished one of them would marry her – and I wasn’t kidding…

She would show the girls in my class differ cheer routines and moves.  She would always choose me to lift up on her shoulders!  I felt so special!  At some point, Shelley came to tell me that “they” told her that she wasn’t allowed to lift anyone up anymore because it was dangerous.  I thought “they” were crazy!  They were ruining this little girl’s life! Ha!  That school year ended and Shelley didn’t come to my class the following year.  I remember a couple of years after that when I didn’t really see Shelley much, wondering if she just felt sorry for me back then or if she really liked the unlikeable freckle-faced girl I was.  That would only last until I saw her and she smiled her big beautiful smile at me and said, “Hi,” and ask how I was doing. I knew then that she was the real deal and she saw something in me that no one else seemed to see and she truly cared about me.

I’m a kindergarten teacher now.  I try to remember what a difference Shelley made in my life.  Somedays my kinderbabies will get on my very last nerve by being unkind to each other or being self-centered – as children will be…  I still strive to be as loving and accepting as Shelley was to me.  I continually ask Him to help me love my babies with His love.  I fall short much of the time.  I wonder if Shelley knows what a difference she made in this awkward little girl’s life.  I still want to be her when I grow up…

My Dresser

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dresser drawer opened

There are a bunch of reasons why I believe in God.  Until my faith was TRULY tested a few years ago, I wasn’t sure how I’d fare if and when that all came about.  I mean, sure, I thought I was a regular Job (the guy in the Bible, not a career) when I went through some struggles in my life – financial, minor health issues, my scary pregnancy with our twins, but until my world was completely upside down, I had NO idea.  We just can’t know until we’re there…

What brought me to consider Him began when I gave birth to my second child.  I thought I was all modern woman, agnostic, guilt-free.  In fact, I had struggled with my past choices for years, but had managed to shove it all down pretty well for a very long time.  When I first saw my son, I could not believe that I got to have such a perfect, precious being – not after I had done something so horrible…

I was 19 years old and a freshman in college.  I had dated the same boy since I was 15 and a freshman in high school.  My roommate and I had saved up our money for months to buy a loft in order to have more space in our obscenely small dorm room.  The loft beds were wobbly and not really safe for us to sleep in, but we could afford them and so up they went! 

About two weeks after we got the lofts, I got terribly sick.  Just as I would wake up, I was having to jump down from my unsteady loft to lose my cookies down the hall in the community bathrooms.  One morning my roommate asked me if it was possible that I was pregnant.  I told her that of course I couldn’t be because I was on “the pill.”  When it kept going on for several more days, I decided to visit the campus clinic.  The doctor called me in, told me that I was pregnant and informed me that because I was on the pill, the baby would be born with many health and development issues, if it even survived the pregnancy.  He then gave me a card with information about how to terminate my pregnancy and told me I should do this as soon as possible.  I acted very “college-girl” and agreed that there was no other real choice.

I was a modern woman and I had little patience for those girls who “trapped” their boyfriends into marrying them with a baby, so I called my boyfriend, told him I needed $200 as soon as possible and informed him that I did not want to see him anymore.  My mother called me a few days later and even though I had no intention of telling her anything, I broke down (mostly from shame) and told her I had an appointment for an abortion.  She told me that she and my father would take me.  I objected a little, but I think I wanted them to be with me deep down.   I remember my mom telling me that she would support me in whatever decision I made.  She asked me if I wanted to keep the baby and I quickly told her, “No.  I can’t.”

I told myself that this wasn’t a real baby, yet.  I told myself that it would be born with too many problems and that wouldn’t be fair to the baby.  I did not want people to think that I did this on purpose because I was having a hard time adjusting to this huge college and wanted an easy excuse to quit and settle.  I also knew I should not marry my baby’s father.

The day that I went to the clinic was nightmarish.  My parents were hard for me to read.  It was a long, silent ride to the clinic.  The pain of the procedure was excruciating.  The people that worked there were very kind.  Afterwards, they told us that I should get something to eat right away.  The one vivid memory I have of my parents that day was pulling out of our parking spot and my dad asking me if I wanted to get something to eat at the Big Boy restaurant that was near there.  My mother abruptly said, “NO!  Just go home.”  I was so sure that she hated me then.  I’m sure now that she had a million emotions going on inside of her, but I was 19 and all I could seem to do was focus on closing my heart to what I had just done.  I couldn’t show any emotion because I was not the victim, my baby was, so I did not deserve any sympathy!  I slept most of the weekend and then returned to school with very little outward evidence as to what had happened.  A liberal arts college is the place to be if you want to behave like a liberated woman and stuff your junk down in the name of being modern…

It wasn’t long before I began to date my boyfriend again.  I drove him crazy with my accusations of him blaming me for killing our baby.  He never said a word about any of it, but everytime he did or said anything I saw it as a way to punish me for what I had done.   Guilt had become the ruler of my life.  Our relationship was awful.  It had always been a rollercoaster ride, but now it was even worse.  So, of course, we decided to get married.  Months later I called it off after everything was planned because I had a moment of sanity.  He moved several states away, my parents sent me to California for a couple of months and it seemed we were getting on with our lives.  He came back to Michigan for a visit and we decided we should get married again, and I would move to New Mexico with him.  My poor parents… I was a train wreck happening over and over again…

See, I thought he was the one because I had shared myself with him and deep down I believed that I was bound to him forever.  I also believed in my heart that I had murdered his baby and I had to make it right somehow.  I didn’t think any of this consciously, I had worked very hard to entomb my guilt and it wasn’t until more than a decade later that I could begin to see why I had made so many terrible decisions as a young adult.   I remember my father saying once that he couldn’t believe how little I cared about having an abortion.  I didn’t have any response.  How could I begin to tell him how I felt at 19, just trying to do what I believed was “right” for everyone and struggling to hang on to my sanity?

My marriage was awful in almost every way.  I cringe when I think of who I was during those three years.  The one thing that I still can hardly believe is that God blessed me with my precious son during all of this.  The truth is that without him, I would have probably stayed in that mess for longer than I want to believe.  I didn’t believe I was worth more than that.  I knew my son was.  I understand why this sounds like crazy logic, and it sounds very unfair to my son (and it WAS!), but I believe that it was His plan.  I found Him because of Scott.  I didn’t immediately become a full-fledged Christian.  It was several years before that happened, but I KNEW when I looked at my baby that very first time that there was a God and He loved me.  Unfortunately, my next thought was that if I was a good enough mom, He would forgive me for what I had done to my first child…

So, that’s what I did.  I tried like crazy to earn grace.  It seemed to work really well while he was young.  When he was three years old, I married my husband, whose father is a pastor.  We began to visit his church and I asked LOTS of questions.  I drove my husband crazy.  My father-in-love was such a patient teacher.  He never got upset with my doubts or my questions.  He helped me see Jesus in a whole new way.  Four years into our marriage, I was pregnant with our daughter and Scott was almost 7 years old, I was baptized and crazy about Jesus.  The one thing I still claimed to not completely agree with other Christians about was abortion.  I taught at an innercity school where I witnessed some unbelievable life situations.  One of my special ed. girls had two children.  One of them was her biological father’s and the other was her stepfather’s – both of which were in jail for what they had done to this child.  I used to tell my Christian friends that this was one situation where abortion may have been the answer.  It helped keep all of my junk stuffed and no one any the wiser.

In 1995 we had twin boys!  I was in the hospital for months with complete previa and they were born 6 weeks premature with several issues.  I lost so much blood during their delivery that they lost me on the table briefly. It took us awhile to get back on our feet again, but less than 18 months later, we were moving into a wonderful new home in a cul-de-sac with a beautiful inground pool and 4 bedrooms!  The first thing I did was had a fence put up around the pool for safety after walking out there with our little ones for the first time and watching them all scatter three different ways.  When it was done, I took our three youngest out into the backyard to run around freely.  It was a gorgeous sunny day and my babies were poetry in motion running around back there! As I watched them from a bench in our yard, I was suddenly overcome with deep mourning.  The emotions were so strong that I remember feeling overwhelmed with fear of such sorrow.  I took my babies into the house, laid them all down for their naps and went into my bedroom down the hall.

I mourned for several days.  I mourned the death of my little girl, because I always knew she was a girl.  I mourned the choices I had made because of what I had done.  My Heavenly Father sat in that room with me and it was as if we opened each drawer in my dresser of stuffed junk and He helped me clean it out with such love as I had never known.  Drawer by drawer, we cleaned, folded and put each thing away neatly.  He showed me that I could never do enough to earn grace.  So, I asked Him to forgive me, even as I told Him I didn’t understand how He could.  It was a lengthy process that took days to work through.  It was beautiful and sorrowful.  My tears seemed never ending.

I couldn’t share anything with my husband until my Father was done with me. He already knew about the abortion, but he didn’t know for several days that God was dealing with me about it.  At one point, Bob came to me and said, “I’ve been trying to figure out why you’re so sad and I want you to know that if you’ve done something, found someone else, we can work through this.  I love you and I don’t want to lose you.”  I don’t think I had ever loved my husband as much or felt as loved by him until that moment. 

When it was time for me to close the last drawer, I had a new understanding of His love for me.  I had a peace that was unlike anything I had ever experienced in my life.  I felt lighter and clean… Really, really clean, inside and out. 

Since then I still have moments when I ask Him to help me accept His grace, love and forgiveness.  I find that I love more fully now.  I am able to extend grace in a way I wasn’t able to before.  I encourage people to open their drawers and deal with their junk, because we all have it and I believe we’re supposed to help each other not feel so alone by sharing our stories.  I hope my story helps someone else feel less alone and more able to be transparent so that He can show him or her His grace, love and forgiveness.  He knows when we’re ready and He’s waiting for us to allow Him to help us.  That is one of the things I hold onto when I have my doubting moments.  He came when I was ready.  He didn’t condemn me in hate, but He convicted me in love when I least expected it – when I thought I was all better and it was all over and life seemed so good, even though my past choices were controlling so much of my life still. 

That’s what sin does in the dark.

 

Stomping My Feet…

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tantrumDo you ever just feel like stomping your feet while loudly proclaiming, “IT’S NOT FAIR!!!”? When our children were growing up and one of them would indignantly tell me this, I would respond with, “You’re right. It’s not fair. I’m not sure who told you life was fair. They lied to you… It isn’t.” I didn’t say this to be insensitive to my children. I thought I was preparing them for life. We just get hurt if we go into this stuff thinking things are going to go like they do in the movies. The good guy does not always win. The truth does not always come out. Sometimes people just don’t care to know and it’s too much trouble to make things “right.”
There we go. Put a pretty bow on it and everything is crystal clear and life will be smooth sailing now that I’ve imparted some more “wisdom” and “truth.” … Yeah … No

Recently I was having one of those (couple of) days when I’m spiritually stomping my feet and inwardly proclaiming to Him that, “It’s not fair.” I’m feeling beat up and I’m just kind of tired of the whole thing.
Last night I was was having a little pity party. I was skipping dinner, going to bed at 7:00 and hoping to wake up with a new attitude. I let Him know I knew life wasn’t fair, but I needed to be a baby for a short bit. He’s cool with that, if I’m honest with Him about it.
Both of our oldest sons texted me within minutes of each other. One to tell me that our grandson was home from the hospital and doing better and the other to see how I was doing. Blessed…
I told our oldest about my pity party and said I’d be better tomorrow. He offered to come over with my daughter-in-love and hang out. My Honey thought it was a wonderful idea since his wife was wallowing and he couldn’t seem to help her shake it off!
Our Hannah ordered Chinese food, our Caleb and Aaron went and picked it up. Scott and Bailey showed up with Donut (my grandpuppy), who immediately jumped up on my bed, made a beeline for me and made me smile ear-to-ear! Life isn’t fair. Sometimes we get more than we deserve.
We talked, laughed, told stories, hugged and ate. It was just what we all needed. I know it was what I was aching for. I didn’t feel all alone anymore.
I realize that I feel very isolated in this other situation I’m in. Some of the inmates are running the asylum and sometimes there isn’t a thing you can do after you’ve done all you can. You have to wait it out and then move on. Life isn’t fair. I want to believe that it will be like a heroic movie and truth will win out, but I’m not so sure I’ll get my happy, fair ending. And it’s funny to me that I still believe on some level that life should always be fair. I think He instilled that in us because it is supposed to be what we desire and fight for. Unfortunately, I know this is a broken place and we run it with human imperfection.
So, I think figuring out how to balance all of that is what I have trouble coming to terms with on occasion. Do you struggle with this? I feel like when I stop struggling with this, I will become a very bitter, albeit, realistic girl, but sometimes I wonder if letting go means I’ve grown up…

Nah…. I just can’t do it…